Before I had kids, I hiked. Hiking set me free in a million different perfect ways. I’d decide in the morning where to go, and then I’d zoom off and climb some mountain pass or hike to a frigid alpine lake. It helps to be a teacher and to have my summers off, but I’d also hike as much as I could on weekends in the fall or spring until the snow flew.
Once my son was born almost nine years ago, I hiked with him until he was too heavy to carry. By that time I also had a daughter, and that is when I started running.
Movement is a non-negotiable in my life. While this need extends beyond literal motion, literal motion is what I crave most. When I was home either every other day as a part-time teacher or home full time in the summer, I realized that I was going to lose it unless I started to like running. Running seemed like a practical solution to losing baby weight, getting my kids and I outside, and clearing my foggy mommy head. The only problem was that I hated it.
Honestly, I had always wanted to be a runner from a purely practical standpoint. I loved the idea of just needing a pair of running shoes and heading right out my front door. But then, I would run. My lungs would burn. I would feel like I was going to throw up everything I had eaten that day. My shins hurt. My hips hurt. Hell, my whole BODY hurt. And then it hurt for a few days later, too. The point was, for me, running felt TERRIBLE, so why would I ever want to subject myself to that horror show? I’d so much rather head into the mountains and hike ten miles. The problem was, I couldn’t. Not with a two year old and a newborn. Lord knows I had tried envisioning myself with my thirty-five pound two-year-old in the backpack and my newborn daughter in the Baby Bjorn. I think I even tried it once and realized that it was a bad idea.
So I started running. With the second child, you realize how few bells and whistles you really need. What I really needed, for my ‘motion’ sanity, was a double jogger.
I popped my kids into the Chariot the minute that Sophie was old enough, right around six months or so. I would hook our big dog Boomer and his leash to the handlebar, and off we would slowly roam, like a one-woman parade. Many people around town would say, “I saw you running!” and smile. I am pretty sure that people also occasionally thought that I was walking. I had to let my pride go.
The thing that helped me learn to love running the most was that I gave myself permission to run very, very, very slowly. And I would also run three miles, no more. Not to mention that I was pushing two kids in the Chariot. I am not going to lie and say that I loved it right away, but the end of the story is that I now love running. Since those early days of parenthood, I have run 10Ks, 15Ks, and a half marathon. I have gone through phases where all I did for exercise was run, up to thirty miles a week if I could manage it. I love the endorphins, I love that I can go any time, really, except after I eat, and I love the freedom, that empty, full, happy zen feeling that I get after every single run.
I still smile when I see other women pushing two kids and their dog down the bike path. I remember how much it helped me back when I was nursing, changing diapers, and reading books to my kids what felt like twenty-four seven. Those little junkets down the bike path or along the railroad track literally saved my bacon and turned me into a runner.